10,000 PEOPLE FAIL TO RIOT IN BALTIMORE!!!! April 28, 2015

You know that feeling you have when the press overlooks the 50 zillion peaceful prolifers on the mall in DC and focuses on the “Kill Obama!!!” kooks or the Westboro Baptist nuts on the sidelines? Apply that to these 10,000 people here.

To be sure, the violence in Baltimore is a story.  But it is not (or would not be in a non-violence-driven media) *the* story.  The story is the peaceful (and entirely just) protest against a corrupt, violent, police culture chronicled by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who grew up in neighborhood where Freddie Gray was killed in police custody:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

None of this is justification for the rioters.  Violence is not only not the answer, it’s a guarantee that the legitimate voice of the 10,000 will not be heard on the excuse that if you give them an inch, the rioters will take a mile.  Lots of locals, like this mom who is nonplussed by her son’s attempt to live the Thug Life by throwing rock at passing cars and looting, get this:

Others, such as this doughty band of clergy and their flock have confronted the violence as Christ would–non-violently:

And still others, often courageous, anonymous individuals, have done the same, like this guy:

Or this guy:

“They do not respect this young man’s death” is the core truth about the difference between the rioters stealing toilet paper from 7-11, and the peaceful protesters who really are demanding change to a corrupt thugocracy in the Baltimore political system. The looters could not care less. They just saw a chance to party and grab free stuff.  Same thing happened here in Seattle during the WTO riots.  There’s always a certain small percentage of people who seek violence for entirely selfish purposes.

Conversely, there are also always voices who seek “peace” for entirely selfish purposes: in this case the authorities who killed Freddie Gray and have been documented, again and again, as a menace to the life and limb of the people who are protesting them. Coates makes a devastating point about their hypocrisy:

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.

Coates is, from an earthly perspective, perfectly right. And yet, non-violence *is* the right response anyway, not because hypocritical thug cops call for it, but because Jesus–who had the snot beaten out of him by the cops, was led like a lamb to the slaughter and did not open his mouth–calls for it. This is where “blessed are the peacemakers” reveals itself to be as unpopular a beatitude as all the others. Peace, according to Paul, is won “by the blood of his cross”. Be a peacemaker and you will first be hated as weak by the oppressor and as a traitor by the oppressed.

The message the rioters in Baltimore need to hear is coming from the peaceful clergy who are marching to quell the violence. But as Coates points out, the message the rest of us need to hear is that the protests in Baltimore didn’t arise from a zero point vacuum, but from frustration over the umpteenth act of unjust violence and murder by cops who get away with this stuff on a regular basis–and not just in Baltimore.  It arises from living in a country that has a bigger prison population than Stalin had, and vastly disproportionate numbers of those prisoners being minorities.  It arises from a prison complex system that is for profit and rewards enterprising state officials who participate in kid-for-cash jail schemes targeting minorities.  It arises from corrupt state systems designed and built to crush the weak:

The real story here is not the violent minority, but the peaceful majority and their entirely just complaint which we ignore at our peril by hiding behind the violence of the thugs as an excuse.

Finally, the other story, which we will never hear because the press–whose main job is selling beer and shampoo by titillating us with violence–will never report it, is summed up by Daniel Schorr his May 1993 World Monitor article, “Confessions of a Newsman,” where he recalls a brief exchange after a news conference with the nonviolent civil-rights activist Martin Luther King:

“….I came to this news conference with a CBS camera crew prepared to do what TV reporters do–get the most threatening sound bite I could in order to ensure a place on the evening news lineup. I succeeded in eliciting from him phrases on the possibility of ‘disruptive protest’ directed at the Johnson administration and Congress.

As I waited for my camera crew to pack up, I noticed that Dr. King remained seated behind a table in an almost empty room, looking depressed. Approaching him, I asked why he seemed so morose.

“‘Because of you,’ he said, ‘and because of your colleagues in television. You try to provoke me to threaten violence, and if I don’t, then you will put on television those who do. And by putting them on television, you will elect them our leaders. And, if there is violence, will you think of your part in bringing it about?’

“I never saw Dr. King again. Less than two months later he was assassinated….”

The real story here is not the few who rioted, but the 10,000 who did not–and the justice of their cause. They have internalized the words of St. Paul:

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Co 10:3–5)

We do well to praise and imitate such people.

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  • kirthigdon

    I lived in LA during the Rodney King riots so these affairs in Ferguson and Baltimore look like pretty small potatoes by comparison. And the so-called conspiracy of the Crips, Bloods, Black Guerrilla Family, and Nation of Islam to kill cops sounds like the stuff of instant urban legend although the cops seem to be alternating between being terrified and uttering blood-curdling threats. But the media are doing their best to gin up the fear level. CNN, Fox, and MSNBC cable news kept telecasting pictures of the same three burning cars almost all last evening.

    Kirt Higdon

    • Elaine S.

      “these affairs in Ferguson and Baltimore look like pretty small potatoes in comparison”

      IIRC, something like 50 people died in the LA/Rodney King riots and there were similar death tolls in Watts, Detroit and Newark during the ’60s. Whereas no one, that I know of at this time, has been killed in Baltimore; and I am aware of only two deaths that could be attributed to the Ferguson riots — one a young black man who had testified to the grand jury and the other a Bosnian immigrant attacked by a gang of “youths”. Both tragic, to be sure, but nowhere near the level of carnage and destruction that took place in the ’60s, or even in the 19th and early 20th centuries:


  • TaylorJonathanD

    Hate the sin, but love the sinner. When one gets angry with a Freddie Gray or a Michael Brown, whose spine is easier to sever: the one belonging to the “thug” or the one belonging to the neighbor’s son? The language of *some* non-rioters (including Baltimore’s Mayor) and the language of those who did what brought everyone out in the streets yesterday carries the same “raqa” towards young black men. What I’d like to hear–both in Baltimore and at the Supreme Court today–is a clear distinction between the person (always and everywhere made in the image of God) and the person’s acts (which flow from the exercise of a responsible human will). But I won’t hold my breath. Probably what we’ll get in Baltimore is continued hatred of the sin AND the sinner and what we’ll get in DC is continued love of the sinner AND the sin.

    • Dave G.

      That was well said. Very well said.

    • D.T. McCameron

      Love of sin, in its own way, is hatred of the sinner.

  • Bold Brazen Article

    Mr.Coates’ essay may have been beautifully written, but that does not necessarily mean that it’s true. He is the son of a Black Panther, a racist group that is responsible for the deaths of police officers. He is also an atheist. Attacking the police and organized religion are the tactics of radicals like Mr. Coates. Most police officers go to work each night to help people. I cannot say that of people like Freddie Gray, who had an extensive criminal record of selling drugs to his own community. If the officers purposely injured Gray, then they should be sent to jail. Mr. Coates should re-focus his malice towards the criminals who terrorize his neighborhood, not the police officers who risk their lives to keep it safe.

    • Andy

      Just looked Mr. Coates’ biography – didn’t see a redial in it. So he is the son of a Black Panther – I know the sins of the father fall to the children and all children are like their fathers. So he is an atheist – does that make his comments less appropriate – doubt it. The attitude you presented is a large part of the problem that is in Baltimore, Ferguson, and many other places. Distrust of others not like you.

      • Becky

        What is a redial? How does it apply here?

        • Andy

          forgive autocorrect and my arthritis – didn’t see radical in it.

    • jroberts548

      Nothing in Coates’ background is possibly relevant to the truth of what he’s saying. It wouldn’t matter if he was a clone of Hitler and Idi Amin spliced together. It’s so rare to see an actual genetic fallacy though, so good for you.

      Nothing in Gray’s criminal record is relevant. He wasn’t arrested for dealing drugs in the past. According to the Baltimore PD, He wasn’t arrested for anything – they had reasonable suspicion for a Terry stop, but nothing for an arrest. Even if he had been arrested with probable cause, he hadn’t been tried or sentenced to anything.

      The officers who murdered Gray were not trying to keep the community safe.

      If most officers go to work to help people, they have a strange way of showing it. You don’t help people by illegally murdering people in your custody. You don’t help people by looking the other way when your colleagues murder people.

    • jroberts548

      Even if Gray had committed murder, rather than no crime at all, it wouldn’t matter. Cops don’t get to execute people without trials, and Maryland doesn’t have the death penalty.

      Are you a republican? I thought you people pretended to believe in smaller government. Why are you sticking up for cops who use excessive force? Government doesn’t get bigger than that.

    • chezami

      Where would the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism be without the Genetic Fallacy to save it from ever having to think about things it refuses to think about?

  • Becky

    Okay, I am against racial stereotyping, I am against debtor’s prison, I am against

    reckless endangerment by police, I am against all those things that led to this horrible situation. But I don’t know what to do with my opposition. Should I go to Baltimore and look disapproving at the police. Should I ask poor people of my acquaintance if they need some money to pay tickets? I really don’t know what to do.

  • ManyMoreSpices

    Coates is full of it.

    When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.

    Sorry, no. The state has a monopoly on violence. That’s how any system of government other than anarchy – even the very small government I want – works. The state is allowed to visit violence on you – and every law is ultimately backed by the threat of violence – and you’re not allowed to respond with violence. At a certain point, if the state becomes intolerably oppressive, violent resistance against it may – may – be permissible. But only under the same standards that we apply to every other element of Just War Theory analysis. And the probabilities of (i) success, and (ii) that the good done will outweigh the harms done are both basically zero.

    Of course, Coates refuses to explicitly say that we’re at that point. He tiptoes right up to the line, saying that the state can’t demand nonviolence, but can’t write the next sentence: it is morally permissible to hurl a brick, torch a police car, strike a cop. I think it’s because he doesn’t have the balls to say it. That, or he knows how stupid that sounds. Either way, this chickenhawk certainly doesn’t have the balls to pick up a brick himself.

    So if we’re not at that point, or he’s not willing to pick up that brick and fight, then he needs to conclude that yes, nonviolence is the answer here. And he effectively does, via his silence on the ultimate, vital question: is this rioting justified or not?

    He dances around it a little bit more, saying that “none of this can mean that rioting or violence is ‘correct’ or ‘wise,’ any more than a forest fire can be ‘correct’ or ‘wise.'” Because black people in America’s inner cities, you see, have no moral agency. If they riot, it’s just something that happens, like lightning striking tinder. If rioting can’t be ‘correct,’ it also can’t be ‘incorrect.’

    Let’s be straight about this: it is a fantastically stupid idea to take up arms against any American government, particularly when your faction constitutes 12% of the population and is among the poorest. If black people declare a war against the government, they will lose. If they declare a race war against white people, they will lose. Even short of all-out war, we’ve conducted this experiment before. The communities that were destroyed by riots in the 1960’s never recovered. Any chance that West Baltimore had of coming back is now gone for another two generations. But, you now, Coates doesn’t live there anymore. He travels to France and writes for a fancy liberal magazine. So he can obliquely advocate for this dangerous nonsense with no actual repercussions.

    There’s no need for extraordinary methods here. There’s no disenfranchisement of Baltimore’s blacks. The city has a black mayor, black police chief, black city council, and Maryland is virtually a one-party Democratic state, represented by two Democratic senators, and the president is a black Democrat. If that’s not working, maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same stupid mistakes again and again in the voting booth and expecting a different result.

    One of the consequences of voting stupidly is that you get stupid, oppressive laws. Coates asks: “what specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose?” I’m so glad you asked. It was some stupid knife-control law that the Democrats you stupidly keep in power want on the books.

    To return to the argument that the state cannot preach nonviolence when its agents do violence to the public: you know what? Fine. The government – the Baltimore PD, the mayor, the city council – they can’t call for nonviolence. But I can. The neighbors of the rioters can. The people harmed by them can. And when they do, they don’t need moral poltroons like Coates telling them to shut up.

    Moreover, those people rioting: were they victims of police brutality? What gives them the right to engage in mob justice for the death of another person? I’m pretty upset about Freddie Gray’s death, too. Does that mean that I can torch the nearest police car? How about the nearest CVS, which had absolutely nothing to do with Gray’s death but was burned anyway? If not, why not? Is it because I’m white? Because I live in Baltimore but don’t live in Sandtown? Because I’ve had an easier life?

    Let’s face it: whether he admits it or not, Coates likes generalized mob violence in response to generalized oppression, on his terms. That’s evil stuff right there.

    Oh, and if Coates is right, if violence is justified here? Then that mother was wrong for knocking her kid upside the head. She’s the Oppressor.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      “Just War Theory”

      …and I think we’re done here.

      • ManyMoreSpices

        What? If you’re going to fight a war against the state, it had better be a just one. How could you possibly disagree?

    • pja

      I wish I had written this. Thank you.

  • 92JazzQueen .

    Its times like this I wish he had answers to our racial problems.

    • Dave G.

      It’s hard to say. First off, perhaps people not encouraging racial tensions as a first step, no matter how advantageous it might be. Where we go from there, it’s hard to say. It’s an old problem that probably requires several solutions rather than just one.

      • jroberts548

        The biggest step towards alleviating racial tensions would be for cops to stop murdering unarmed Black people, and for DAs to stop letting cops do so with impunity. This isn’t a mysterious cultural problem that can’t be solved.

        • Dave G.

          Actually, not exploiting the deaths of black people killed by cops would work. Evidence? Name me three comparable outcries and demonstrations resulting from unarmed whites killed by cops. Until the first question we ask ceases to be ‘but what was the person’s skin color?’, we’re going to keep living in a society that first and foremost judges based on a person’s skin color.

          • jroberts548

            I don’t know why white people don’t care when cops murder them (but they’re perfectly capable of rioting due to the outcome of major sporting events). It doesn’t follow from that that other people shouldn’t care.

            I don’t understand how you can look at a case of a cop murdering someone and think the problem is that it’s being protested.

            That is, the first question shouldn’t be as to the person’s race. It should be more along the lines of “why don’t we put cops in jail when they murder people?”

            • Dave G.

              I just noticed nobody seemed to care at the same level. I didn’t mention the skin color of those don’t show the outrage. And I didn’t say it’s a problem that the killing is being protested. I said that it’s a problem that not all such killings are being protested, and it doesn’t require much thought to notice the general trend regarding what does and doesn’t seem to matter in terms of the outrage and its coverage. If it wasn’t about race, we (that’s we, all of us, red and yellow, black and white) would be equally outraged whenever it happened. And yet we aren’t. The outrage isn’t equal. The coverage just isn’t equal. And it’s tough to believe it’s just coincidence.

              • jroberts548

                It’s not a coincidence. There’re a lot of reasons more white people think cops are on their side, even when cops murder white folks for playing video games or being deaf. The remedy to that problem is for everyone to protest police violence.

                • Dave G.

                  Somehow we ended up agreeing. But it’s more than just white people not caring. I don’t see anyone protesting despite the color. I’d hate to think the only reason blacks or whites care is because blacks were killed. I’d like to think they actually care because human beings were killed. Again, that old dream about not judging by the color of our skin. And that includes the media, which inexplicably seems to focus only on some instances of police brutality while giving slight to no coverage of others.

                  • chezami

                    White people really know how to take a punch. Just one more way we’re better than all those rioting blacks.

                    • Dave G.

                      Didn’t get that one.

            • Cinaed Mac Seamas

              But we do. We even incarcerate them when they merely violate civil rights when its adjudged to be a hate crime, e.g., the officers who beat Rodney King. A murder has not been established here, and if it is, the officers involved will be prosecuted.

              • jroberts548

                He broke his own spine? I can’t imagine a plausible set of facts where it’s something less than manslaughter.

                I have no idea why you put “merely” in front of violate civil rights.

                • Kenneth Smith

                  Actually, witness testimony from another prisoner in the van as reported states that Freddie Gray was attempting to hurt himself in the police van. And why would this be? Evidence shows that Gray had recently been awarded a physical damages settlement and was in negotiations with a law firm in order to obtain a lump sum payout. Its my money, and I want it now…… Trying to double your paydays by suing the police for damage you caused….well, it didn’t work out that way.

                  • jroberts548

                    An anonymous prisoner who never saw Gray said something. Whoop dee doo. I have just as much authority to tell you an anonymous cop told me that they murdered Gray on purpose.

                  • jroberts548

                    And there a lot of people who successfully sue someone who don’t then kill themselves. He had every right to a lump sum instead of a structured payment, and depending on how it’s discounted, it was probably the right call. That doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

                  • jroberts548

                    Also, it’s not testimony.

  • SteveP
    • ManyMoreSpices

      I rise to offer a limited defense of Mr. Hart:

      Because he advocates violence in some circumstances, he has thought about the conditions under which it is justified, the rules of engagement, and the consequences. He asks which targets are legitimate and who will bear the brunt of reprisals.

      This is preferable to those who suggest that violence might be justified, or argue that a violent state can’t object to violent responses (like Ta-Nehisi Coates), or voice oblique support for the rioters. These people want to see violence and they work – however indirectly – to support it. But they offer no limitations. Coates, for example, doesn’t bother to ask who/what may be attacked. He offers no distinction between a police station and a pharmacy, between a police cruiser and private car. He gives no parameters for who is allowed to be involved in this violence, and he doesn’t do the essential work of asking whether the violent response from the state – which is sure to come – will fall on noncombatants. It either doesn’t matter to him because all black rage is good rage and there are no brown-skinned enemies to the left, or he’s too lazy or cowardly to ponder these questions.

      The Dark Knight had it right: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

  • Kenneth Smith

    “Bigger prison population than Stalin had…” So you think our inmates are political prisoners? The inmates of our system were incarcerated in a trial by jury system at the local level, not the Party system — do you truly wish to eliminate trial by jury, one of the true social gems distilled from the western European heritage? Methinks not. Thou dost protest too much. And the corrupt “police thugocracy” is populated in Baltimore overwhelmingly by the same ethnicity as the people currently on display rampaging. This is what happens when one region of the US is vilified and the underclass is faux-emancipated, “freed to be caged” (see song “Rednecks” by Randy Newman) then encouraged to believe that their underclass status makes them Christ-like, special, and not accountable for their actions. The Church has its own “errors of Russia” to be purged when the time comes.

    • chezami

      Clearly, everything is just fine. Our prison system is obviously due to the fact that our minorities are just naturally more deserving of prison and our population is just naturally more criminally inclined than Russians were. It’s can’t possibly have to do with our justice system being radically dysfunctional.

  • IrishEddieOHara

    Wow. Mark! This is without a doubt one of the best, most thought provoking pieces you have written. Kudos!

  • cmfe

    Thank you, Mark.

  • Na

    aren’t peace makers supposed to give each side the benefit of the doubt, engage all and have empathy for all? Or are they just supposed to pick the politically correct side based on marxian analysis of group oppression? Thug cops? really? Exactly how did these six thug cops commit murder? No body knows. And yet for some “justice” is convicting 6 people with no evidence. ohh..you were driving a van when someone died in the back seat. Thug! Murder! I am Peacemaker!